Graceful Exits; a recommendation
Forgive me if this book has been previously discussed. I highly recommend it. Sushila Blackman, a Hindu student, compiled and edited, "Graceful Exits: How Great Beings Die-Death stories of Hindu, Tibetan, Buddhist, and Zen masters." Sadly, just a few months after this book was completed, Sushila passed away from advanced lung cancer and was not able to witness the book's completion. I would like to share with you a few snippets:
Before he died, Hui-neng, the sixth Chinese patriarch of Zen, spoke these moving words of farewell:
“Come close. In the 8th month I intend to leave this world. If any of you have doubts, ask them quickly, and I shall resolve them for you. I must bring your delusions to an end and make it possible for you to gain peace. After I have gone, there will be no one to teach you.”
Deeply touched, all the disciples began to cry. Among them, Shen-hui alone remained unmoved. Hue-neng turned and spoke to him:
“Shen-hui, you are a young monk, yet you have attained the status of awakening in which good and not good are identical, and you are not moved by judgment of praise and blame. You others have not yet understood...You’re crying just because you don’t know where I’m going. If you knew where I was going you wouldn’t be crying. Nature itself is without birth and without destruction, without going and without coming…”
I know you are very ill. Like a good Zen student, you are facing that sickness squarely. You may not know exactly who is suffering, but question yourself; “What is the essence of this mind?” Think only of this. You will need no more. Covet nothing. Your end, which is endless, is as a snowflake dissolving in the pure air.
-Bassui, addressing a dying disciple
When the tenth-century Chinese Zen Master name Dasui Fahzen was asked, “How are you at the time when life-death arrives?” he answered promptly, “When served tea, I take tea; when served a meal, I take a meal.”
Empty-handed I entered the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going-
Two simple happenings
That got entangled.
-Kozan Ichigyo; 14th century Zen monk